I’ve been reading, praying, and processing through the events our nation witnessed last week, considering their impact on children’s and family ministry. In many ways, I’ve been hoping other wiser, experienced kidmin leaders would lend their voice to these issues. In that regard I want to honor my friend Kathie Philipps for her bold call to inclusivity and thank Illustrated Children’s Ministry for their call towards Black Lives Matter.
When we look at our world, the brokenness is easy to see. Sin tears us apart in implicit and explicit ways. When it comes to unity and diversity, the children’s and family ministry landscape has a long way to go. The term “multiethnic” refers specifically to church communities that meet what sociologists call “the 80/20 rule. According to Bryan Loritts, Lead Pastor at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship and President for Kainos Movement:
To be considered multiethnic, there can’t be one ethnicity that makes up more than 80 percent of your congregation. So if you have 100 people and 79 of them are white and 21 are other, you’re multiethnic. If 81 are Hispanic and 19 are other, you’re not. Using that benchmark, only about 2.5 percent of all churches were multiethnic five years ago.
By this definition the leadership teams of many children’s and family ministry publishers, resource creators, and conference providers are not multiethnic*. The faculty of many academic institutions where Children’s Ministry is taught either at a seminary or level, along with the leadership teams who participate in non-accredited/academic certificate programs do not meet the 80/20 rule. I went to the prominent Kidmin Facebook groups and scrolled for hours through the members lists and noticed the same thing – these groups are not multiethnic. I visited each blog on the Children’s Ministry Top 100 and every handle on the Top 100 Kidmin Tweeters – both lists do not meet the multiethnic definition.
Does this reveal anything? Is this instructive in any way? Here’s the splinter in my mind – something I do not want to be true, but wonder if it is. Is it possible that when we talk about “Kidmin” – we are talking about “white kidmin”? What is clear from the research is that leaders of color are markedly absent from the general kidmin conversation across the US.
If we desire unity, we must embrace multiethnicity as children’s and family ministry leaders. We must reach out to, network with, and listen to diverse leaders, churches, and denominations. We must recruit multiethnic ministry teams in our contexts. We must read books from ethnic leaders like Bryan Loritts fable, Right Color, Wrong Culture or More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel by Chris Rice and Spencer Perkins and consider the Scriptures that deal with these issues.**
And we must heed God’s call, His beckoning to prayer in 2 Chronicles 7:14. If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
* As revealed by LinkedIn
** Loritts finds a biblical mandate for multiethnic ministry in Paul’s words to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 2:11–22. “We often hear pastors preach on the first half of Ephesians 2, which deals with our vertical reconciliation to God. Many churches act as if Ephesians 2 ends with verse 10: ‘For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works.’ Reconciliation to God is of first importance, but right on the heels of that Paul talks about horizontal reconciliation. Gentiles, once strangers and aliens, have been brought near by the blood of Jesus, ‘and the dividing wall of hostility has been demolished.’ That’s huge.”
Thank you for being a prophetic voice that is inviting us to consider how we are missing out on what God has for us because we are missing key voices at the table.
Greta post. I agree this is something we need to address as a community. While I know there are kidmin leaders of all ethnicities in our country, do you think that we are segregated not due to our ethnicity, but rather as a result of the types of churches we lead? If this is so, how do we find ways to cross the network divide and connect groups? I know Matt McKee had some success with this recently. He might be one to talk to.
Thank you for this! There is a huge mammoth in kidmin that needs to be addressed. The more I study race, the socialization of race, and the sociology of children the more I am convinced that the church must intentionally teach children to treasure diversity, be aware of structural inequalities, and appreciate our differences.
Matt, thanks so much for this important post. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a 36-yr old upper middle class white guy, but we are doing what we can at Illustrated Children’s Ministry to create diverse illustrations of Bible stories (you won’t see any white Jesus drawings coming from us), present the biblical story in a way that is inclusive and speak up for important social justice concerns.
How could we NOT create an image for Black Lives Matter after the past few weeks? It’s been horrific.
I think you raise some really good questions. I spent much of my full-time pastoral ministry in the world of youth ministry, and that is certainly a very white, non-multiethnic ministry field. And I think you’re probably right about the children’s ministry world as well.
We have much work to do.
YES yes, a thousand times yes. We are working this out in our context and i’m dreaming of ways to share what we are learning with other churches. but there definitely needs to be more awareness, more listening and more thoughtful intentional work in the KidMin world about equipping churches and families to be multi-cultural not simply multi-ethnic (and I would add intergenerational and all abilities). Thanks for calling KidMin out on this one!